The long-delayed “Geneva II” peace conference for Syria will open in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux because of a lack of hotel space in Geneva, the United Nations says.
“The international conference on Syria … will be held due to logistical reasons … in Montreux,” said Khawla Mattar, spokeswoman for UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is trying to organise the conference.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month finally set January 22 as the date for the talks, which have been repeatedly postponed since June. But a luxury watch fair will be taking place in Geneva at the same time.
The global elite will also begin gathering for the annual World Economic Forum that begins in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on January 22, many of them passing through Geneva.
As a result, the city’s hotels are fully booked, leading organisers to look for alternatives.
Montreux was decided upon, Mattar said, for a variety of reasons, including security considerations and the availability of hotel space in the scenic town at the other end of Lake Geneva known for its jazz festival.
The conference centre at the Montreux Palace will only host the first day of high-level talks on January 22, hosted by Ban and including all invited country delegations.
Negotiations between the two Syrian delegations and Brahimi will then continue at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva on January 24, but it has not been decided how long the talks will continue, Mattar said.